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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN
-&y5
its offensive, the Germans fled so hurriedly that they
had no time to destroy the village. The old woman went
out of her mind when the fascists raped her eldest daugh-
ter in her presence. Later the girl drowned herself in the
pond. During the eight months the fascists were in the
district, Marina had lived m the empty threshing-barn in
the back yard, the entrance to which had been concealed
with piles of straw and junk. All this time she never saw
the sun. At night her mother brought her food and drink,
passing it to her through the smoke hole. The more Alexei
chatted with the girl the more often she glanced at Pe-
trov, and her eyes5> impudent and yet shy, expressed barely
concealed admiration.
Chatting and laughing, they finished their supper. Ma-
rina thriftily put the remnants of the food back into
Meresyev's knapsack, saying that everything comes in
handy for a soldier. After that, she whispered something
to her mother and then turned round and said emphat-
ically:
"Listen! Since the quartermaster has put you in here,
I want you to stay! Get up on the stove, and mother and
I will go into the cellar. You need a rest after your jour-
ney. Tomorrow we'll find a place for you."
Again stepping lightly over the sleepers, she went out
and came back with a bundle of straw, spread it over the
wide stove-ledge and rolled up some clothing for pillows;
she did all this briskly, deftly, noiselessly, and with feline
grace.
"A nice girl, isn't she, old man?" commented Meresyev,
lying down on the straw with pleasure and stretching his
limbs until the joints cracked.
"Not bad," answered Petrov with affected indifference.
"Did you see how she kept looking at you!..."
"I did not! She was chatting with you all the time!"
A moment later his regular breathing was heard. But
Meresyev did not fall asleep. Lying on the cool, fragrant
straw, he saw Marina enter the room and search for some-
thing, every now and again casting a furtive glance at
the stove. She trimmed the lamp on the table, glanced at
the stove again, and picking her way among the sleepers,
softly made for the door. For some reason, the sight of
this pretty, graceful girl clothed in rags filled Akxei's